Throwback Thursday: The Ins And Outs Of An MSD Ignition System

Are you ready for the end of the week? I hope so, as another Thursday is already here. That means Friday is about to greet us once again. Sit back and relax, it’s time for another Throwback Thursday.

This week, we are taking a short trip back to March 2013, to check out, The Ins And Outs Of An MSD Ignition System. Many have fallen victim to fighting ignition issues because they don’t properly understand MSD Ignition systems and how they work. Instead of constantly fighting this battle or paying someone to work on your ignition, many misfires can be solved by looking back at the basics of the system.

“The basic function of the automotive ignition system is to produce a spark that promotes the combustion of the air and fuel mixture,” explained MSD’s Todd Ryden. “The spark that the ignition produces must arrive in the cylinder at the perfect moment in the combustion stroke and have enough voltage to jump the spark plug gap.”

msd ignition

Distributors are equipped with an advancing mechanism to meet timing-fluctuation demand: At idle, a spark occurs on a piston’s compression stroke, a few degrees before it reaches TDC.

In the original article, MSD summed up what exactly is happening within the ignition process. A typical 12-volt automotive ignition system operates by taking in a low voltage with high current from the car’s battery and changing it into a higher voltage with lower current to jump the spark plug gap to propagate combustion in the cylinder. This process of changing low voltage to high voltage is called induction and takes place in the coil. From there, the high-voltage spark is transferred to the distributor and on to a spark plug wire, which must deliver the spark to the cylinder that is coming up on the compression stroke.

The original article gets into the nitty-gritty of what actually happens in an MSD ignition box as well as an ignition coil. You will also get an education about proper distributor timing. For instance, did you know the spark has to be delivered from the distributor at the perfect time to achieve maximum combustion and more importantly, the most amount of horsepower? However, the ideal timing setting starts to change as the engine’s RPM increases. As the piston starts to travel faster on each compression stroke, the spark has to occur sooner to keep up with the demands of the engine.

MSD ignition

While many “old-timers” say they can time an engine just by sound, a good timing light is a must to get the timing precise.

Timing advance is extremely crucial to the power your engine is creating and fully explained in the original article. In short, too little advance can hinder the performance of your engine, while too much advance can cause pre-ignition. This is why you must check the timing at idle and higher RPM to see what the total advance is.

Suffice to say, there’s a lot more in-depth insight in the informative article. That definitely makes it worthy of a second look. For that reason, I selected, The Ins And Outs Of An MSD Ignition System, as this week’s Throwback Thursday showcase article.

Article Sources

About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
Read My Articles

Hot Rods and Muscle Cars in your inbox.

Build your own custom newsletter with the content you love from Street Muscle, directly to your inbox, absolutely FREE!

Free WordPress Themes
Street Muscle NEWSLETTER - SIGN UP FREE!

We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.

Street Muscle - The Ultimate Muscle Car Magazine

We'll send you the most interesting Street Muscle articles, news, car features, and videos every week.

Street Muscle - The Ultimate Muscle Car Magazine

Street Muscle NEWSLETTER - SIGN UP FREE!

We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.

Street Muscle - The Ultimate Muscle Car Magazine

Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...



Classic Ford Performance

Street Rods

Classic Chevy Magazine

Street Muscle - The Ultimate Muscle Car Magazine

Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...

  • Classic Ford Performance
  • Street Rods
  • Classic Chevy Magazine

Street Muscle - The Ultimate Muscle Car Magazine

Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.

Street Muscle - The Ultimate Muscle Car Magazine

Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.

Loading